Finally, we’ve gotten enough cold temperatures so that ice can finally form here in New England, and we can at long last start giving serious attention to the ice climbing season. Every year the season flies by (it’s only about 12 weeks long– at least here in New England), so making the most of the time is key. Here are five things to do to get the most out of your season:
- Climb with a plan– Most climbers I know are recreational climbers and just head out on the weekend with no real plan. They’ve probably mapped out a climb or two they’d like to do, but that’s about as far as they’ve taken it. That’s great if you’re content being recreational climber, but if you’re looking to improve over what you did last climbing season or even in the course of the current season,you need climb with a plan. View the ice climbing season as a ‘season within a season’ and plan out specific climbs you’d like to send, then break down the season week by week to progressively build up your workout schedule and skills to achieve those goals. Periodization applies to climbers, just as it does to triathletes or other endurance athletes.
- Work on your weaknesses– Often times we’re content just to climb and stick with what we’re good at. You could have the best swing in the world, getting sticks every time with you tools, but when it comes to landing solid feet, you’re just not quite there yet. Take the time to work on your specific weaknesses, perhaps for a set period of time while you’re out climbing. If you don’t, you’re weaknesses will remain weaknesses.
- Learn a new skill– Set a goal to learn at least one new snow or ice skill that will serve you well with the type of climbing you like to do. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive skill set that requires a multi-day class (although doing so is great)– it could be a small skill; something that will add tools to your tool box for the type of climbing you like to do. For instance, if you’re into alpine climbing and you’ve never learned how to build a V-thread, set some time aside to do so.
- Explore a new area– No matter how long you’ve been climbing, there’s always someplace new to explore. I’m not necessarily talking about some far away place, but rather right in your backyard. For instance, if you live in New England, there are hundreds of ice climbing routes in a several different areas, each offering their own challenges and little slices of beautiful terrain. Pick one that you’ve never been to before, and go check it out.
- Connect with the climbing community– One of the best parts of participating in sports is the enjoyment of doing it with others. It motivates you and gives you people to share learning and experiences with. Climbing is no exception to this, with a vibrant community. One of the unique challenges of climbing is that it requires partners to do (unless you’re a solo climber, in which case think you have other things on your mind), and staying tied into that community so you have climbing partners is key. I’m a huge fan of online networking to link up with folks, but nothing can beat being face to face. A great place to do this (and knock off one or more of the other items I’ve outlined) is at an ice climbing festival. Whether it’s the Mount Washington Ice Festival, Ouray Ice Festival, Festiglace du Quebec, or numerous other festivals around the northeast or the US, make it part of your plan to meet at least one new partner.
Enjoy the winter & take advantage of the ice while it’s here!